Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20b-21 CSB)
Joseph was a righteous man. He was engaged to a great girl. He had a great reputation in his community. People looked up to him, admired him, respected him.
Then Jesus showed up.
For Joseph, life with Jesus meant giving up his reputation. People would never believe his story. They’d either believe he had slept with Mary before they were married, or that he was too much of a pushover to cut things off with an unfaithful fiancé. Either way, he’d lost their respect. His reputation was damaged in the eyes of men even though he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
I think many times as American Evangelicals, we think this is our experience, too. We think that we are innocent of any wrongdoing and yet hated by the world because of our faith in Jesus.
This is not always true.
We have much to repent of. We have historically marginalized minorities. We have opposed political candidates for their sexual immorality if they were Democrats, yet defended them if they were Republicans. We have been arrogant and judgmental while supposedly heralding a message of grace and forgiveness. We’ve been quick to speak and slow to listen. And to make it worse, we’ve been afraid to admit that we’ve done these things.
The truth is, Jesus is the only truly innocent sufferer. Jesus was guilty of no wrongdoing, and yet He identified with us by becoming a man. He stepped into the waters of repentance at His baptism, associated with sinners enough to gain the nickname “friend of sinners”, and was unjustly condemned to death on a cross.
Jesus gave up his reputation in the eyes of men in order to please His Father in Heaven.
And why? Because he came to save his people from their sins.
Jesus made it possible in His life, death, and resurrection for us to be forgiven.
The church is at her best when we are humbly confessing our sins, pursuing holiness and justice, and gripping tightly to Jesus and His glorious grace.
That takes courage. And if that costs us our reputation, then so be it.